Wow. With six teams on a bye this week, finding sleeper candidates was going to be an adventure, and the injuries suffered by big name defenders has made it even more fun. Figuring out what defenses are going to do in an effort to replace their injured starters is always an adventure, and some situations remain in flux and will require careful observing in the next couple of weeks.
That’s why I love Individual Defensive Player (IDP) formats and the mysteries that it offers up on a weekly basis. Here are some Week 7 sleeper options that are primed for big fantasy outings.
Zach Brown, OLB, Tennessee at Buffalo:
Brown has been playing more physical of late and has put up eight solo tackles and a pass defended in the last two games. The Bills do not represent the best fantasy matchup for linebackers but they do run an offense that lends itself to an athletic player like Brown garnering more snaps. He could have a sneaky good fantasy week while chasing down Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
James Anderson, OLB, Carolina vs. Dallas:
Anderson has been a productive fantasy option the last couple of seasons and started 2012 on a nice pace as well. In Weeks 4 and 5, he saw his snap count dip into the mid-40s range for Carolina, and that makes him sleeper material. The whole Panthers defense has struggled and they seem to be reaching for the best linebacker combination from week-to-week. Look for Anderson to have a surprisingly good fantasy week as he works his way back into the Carolina base defense. The Cowboys will afford Anderson plenty of opportunity to put up tackles (he has 37 total to date) as well as get some big plays on his 2012 resume.
Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas at Carolina:
Butler has played well while filling in for Anthony Spencer and looks to fill-in for him again in Week 7. He put up five solo tackles last week and also knocked a pass down. Butler has yet to post a sack, but he does have three quarterback hurries over the past three weeks and is an adequate pass rushing option. He’s solid against the run, and while he is not as explosive as Spencer off the edge, he can bring efficient pressure. Look for a good fantasy week for Butler as the Panthers offense offers up tackle and big play opportunities for linebackers. Should Spencer actually play this week, insert him into this sleeper spot.
Kavell Conner, ILB, Indianapolis vs. Cleveland:
Conner remains fantasy relevant until Pat Angerer finally returns from injury. After a season-low 19 snaps played in Week 5, he saw that number rise to 46 last week. He has amassed at least five total tackles in every game and added one sack along the way. Against the Browns, he should at least match and very easily surpass his weekly average in tackles. He does have two passes defended so he could garner some fantasy points on passing downs as well.
Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh at Cincinnati:
Worilds had a nice Week 6 performance against Tennessee. He posted five total tackles and had a sack for the second game in a row. Worilds also played a season-high 73 snaps in week six as LaMarr Woodley sat out the game. The Bengals are a nice matchup for pass rushing outside linebackers as Andy Dalton has been sacked 15 times. Worilds has three sacks to date in what has mainly been limited action and is a nice sleeper even if Woodley does play in Week 7.
Erik Walden, OLB, Green Bay at St. Louis:
With the season ending injury to D.J. Smith and rookie Nick Perry also going down, the Packers will be shuffling their linebackers. The forgotten man in this scenario seems to be Walden. They need to generate pressure from somewhere to help Clay Matthews out, and Walden should get the chance to get after the quarterback. He’s proficient in coverage and decent against the run (he has 13 total stops) but should be the first player to get a crack at bolstering the pass rush.
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Baltimore at Houston:
Upshaw will see an increase in snaps with the season-ending triceps injury to Ray Lewis and looked very good against the run versus Dallas in Week 6. He matched his season high with six total tackles and was on the field for 59 snaps. The Ravens are looking for more than the half a sack that Upshaw has registered so far, but they are running out of healthy bodies on defense. Houston is an excellent fantasy opponent for fantasy purposes, and Upshaw is a nice Week 7 option.
O’Brien Schofield, OLB, Arizona at Minnesota
: Last week Schofield was on a limited practice schedule as he nurses a balky knee, and Sam Acho made this list instead. That will not happen again, as Schofield posted two sacks and a combined seven stops. The Vikings gave up another four sacks last week and the Cardinals will be all over Christian Ponder this week with Schofield leading the charge.
Miles Burris, OLB, Oakland vs. Jacksonville:
Burris has supplanted Rolando McClain in the nickel defensive package and played every defensive snap last Sunday for the Raiders. The rookie has a decent Week 7 matchup against the Jaguars as they force feed Maurice Jones-Drew the rock and Burris racks up tackle numbers. Burris has 18 combined stops to date in 2012 and that number will be going up by leaps and bounds as he assumes an every down role.
Jonathan Casillas, OLB, New Orleans at Tampa Bay:
Casillas has been slowed by a neck injury and was on track to replace fellow injured linebacker David Hawthorne before missing Weeks 4 and 5. The Saints are coming off their bye week and facing a very favorable matchup for linebackers in the Buccaneers. Monitor the practice reports out of New Orleans this week. If he’s healthy, Casillas is an excellent fantasy option. If Hawthorne makes it through practice all week and is active against Tampa Bay, he is the choice here.